Tuesday, March 03, 2009

To Non-Pakistani Muslims--and Others--Commenting on Pakistan

There's an Urdu couplet that Madeline Albright reputedly quoted in her congratulatory message to IK Gujral when he became Prime Minister:
Eh mauj-e-saba, un ko bhi zara, dho chaar thhapaiRay halkay say
Kuch log abhi saahil pay khaRay, toofaan ka nazaaray kar thay hain

Oh, morning breeze, to them, too, a few pats, but gently;
For some folks, yet, stand on the shore, being entertained by the storm
There's been several non-Pakistani Muslims expressing academic opinions of the type: "We see Pakistan is melting down; now why would that be?" or "Look what Swat and other mistakes have wrought!" 

Any "We told you so"s or "Look, they be f****ed" reactions within the Muslim community (in any direction) are ... I can't use the word I am looking for, so let's just say "ill-adviced" and "naive". Whether it is Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, or minority communities like those in India or the West; we're all in this together. Too long we've pointed to each other and said either that the "other" is medieval-minded and stuck in the past, unfit for the modern world (either because a) we're too bidah-ridden and need to get pure again or b) that Islam is not fit for the modern world)--or that this or that country is failing or so on. To paraphrase someone I don't quite agree with, either politically or tactically, right now, we are stuck between the twin jaws of neo-colonial domination via a comprador class on the one hand, and neo-purist fanatics on the other. The difference between Santa Clara California and Swat Pakistan; between Hyderabad India and Brighton in the UK is one of degree--or generational. Nothing more, nothing less.

And I speak of Muslims because they are part of communities that overlap--overlap, I say, mind you--with Pakistan. But the rest of the world is no less inter-linked. The West--the US and the British in particular--has been involved in how that region of the world has taken shape over the last century or two generally, and the last few decades specifically. Britain played off groups against each other; the US too often has sided with "our SOB"s (a choice list of Pakistani fundamentalists from the House of Saud to Ziaul Haq to Gubuddin Hekmatyar, but not limited to them, come to mind). And just like us Pakistanis, India--both the Indian establishment and Indian Muslims--have, for too long, been happy to play with fire (Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind, anyone?), or ignore the fire (till very recently Indian Muslims have pooh-poohed my saying that the difference in influence by neo-purist fanatics in India and Pakistan is one of degree). I am on the record,too, on British Muslim--and "mainstream"--leadership. [Addition, PM, Tuesday March 3, 2009: And the same goes for American Muslims--including, quite frankly, a lot of Pakistani-Americans and other diaspora Pakistanis.] I could go on. 

I will return you to your regularly-scheduled programming in a minute. But for now, just think about this. Then let's talk if you really care to.

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